By Milcah Tanimu
An investigation revealed that no fewer than 35 lecturers in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions have faced indictment and subsequent dismissal due to allegations of sexual misconduct over the past five years.
Sexual harassment has been a persistent issue in Nigerian higher education, with a 2018 survey by the World Bank Group’s Women revealing that 70 percent of female graduates from the country’s tertiary institutions reported experiencing sexual harassment during their academic years. The primary culprits identified in these cases were fellow students and lecturers.
Despite the passing of a bill by the Senate in 2021 that mandated a 21-year imprisonment sentence for lecturers found guilty of sexual harassment, many of the lecturers indicted after the bill’s passage were simply terminated from their positions.
According to the findings compiled by their correspondent, Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife had the highest number of lecturers indicted for sexual misconduct. Notably, this institution indefinitely suspended a Professor of Accounting, Richard Oladele, in April 2018 due to allegations of sexual harassment. In 2021, the university also dismissed three lecturers from various departments over similar charges.
Ambrose Ali University in Ekpoma suspended an associate professor, Monday Igbafen, in 2019, over allegations of sexual harassment of female students. This case garnered attention as Igbafen, who was the branch chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities at the time, accused the university’s vice-chancellor of attempting to frame him.
The Imo State University management suspended two lecturers in September 2020 for their alleged involvement in sexual misconduct with female students. In February 2021, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, suspended a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Tourism, Dr. Chigozie Odum, over similar allegations.
Several other institutions, including the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, the University of Lagos, and the University of Port Harcourt, announced dismissals or suspensions of lecturers for sexual misconduct in 2021. The Federal Polytechnic in Bauchi also dismissed two lecturers for similar offenses.
In December 2021, Kwara State University in Malete dismissed a lecturer for harassing a student, while in January 2022, Elechi Amadi Polytechnic in Rivers State announced the dismissal of a lecturer for harassing a female student.
Obafemi Awolowo University again initiated an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against a professor in the Department of Linguistics and African Studies in April 2022. In June 2022, the University of Abuja dismissed two professors for sexual misconduct.
In early 2023, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission arraigned Dr. Balogun Olaniran of Tai Solarin University of Education on charges of demanding sexual gratification from a female student to alter her results in 2021.
Subsequently, in March 2023, a lecturer at Kogi State Polytechnic, Abutu Thompson, was dismissed for sexual harassment and victimization of a female student in the Department of Computer Science. In May, Ambrose Alli University in Edo State reportedly dismissed an unnamed lecturer over allegations of sexual harassment.
On September 7, 2023, the University of Lagos suspended a lecturer, Kadri Babalola, who was accused of raping a 21-year-old student.
Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), urged students to report cases of sexual harassment to school authorities and the student union. He mentioned that ASUU has an Ethics and Grievances Committee to address such cases, and anonymous reporting mechanisms are available on campuses.
Osodeke stated, “In the cases that happened in OAU and UNILAG, the lecturers were jailed, and in the case of UNICAL, the university has taken action and suspended him. If students have any issues, they should be reported to the Student Union as they did in Calabar, and if they have become notorious, what was done in UNICAL should be done, and the university should take it up from there.”
He emphasized the importance of concrete laws to deter misconduct and mentioned that some universities have established dress codes for students to reduce such cases.
Various stakeholders have shared their perspectives on addressing the issue of sexual harassment in Nigerian universities. Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, Director of Programmes at Reform Education Nigeria, called on President Bola Tinubu to sign the sexual harassment bill into law, believing it would be a game-changer in making schools safer for students.
Nafisa Atiku-Adejuwon, Programme Manager for Gender Justice at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, urged institutions to prevent survivors from being further victimized into silence and to provide safe, anonymous pathways for reporting incidents. She also emphasized the need to build trust between university management and students.
Omolola Pedro, a gender and child rights activist, highlighted the importance of punishment for offenders and recommended the formation of anti-sexual harassment committees with representatives from school authorities and student bodies. She stressed the need for these committees to operate without interference to ensure accountability and prevent recurrences of misconduct.